Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Weekender: Michoacán’s Militias

“The Weekender” is our new feature where every weekend we hope to highlight a short film, movie or documentary pertaining to the Americas.

In the early morning hours of February 27th Mexican authorities captured the country’s most wanted criminals: Knights Templar drug gang chief Servando “La Tuta” Gomez. The former teacher turned drug capo led a cartel that served as the de facto rulers of Michoacán state by bribing politicians, intimidating business leaders and ruthlessly eradicating any perceived enemies. The turning point started in early 2013 with the emergence of armed “self defense” groups of local residents allied with rival criminals. The vigilantes helped break up the power held by the Knights Templar though it remains to be seen what role they will take following Gomez’s arrest. Will they incorporate themselves to the government’s rural police force, continue their armed fight against the remnants of the Knights or succumb due to infighting amongst their leaders?

Below the page break is a VICE News video made about one year ago that looked at the rise of “La Tuta” and the Knights Templar, the group’s effects on Michoacán communities and the challenges faced by the “self defense” groups. (Perhaps it’s worth noting that even though the government legalized the vigilantes after the video was published, tensions continue between the federal law enforcement authorities and the local militias).

Friday, February 27, 2015

Daily Headlines: February 27, 2015

* Argentina: An Argentine judge dismissed charges originally filed by the late prosecutor Alberto Nisman over an alleged cover up by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Iran’s role in the 1994 AMIA bombing.

* Chile: The Chilean government rejected the euthanasia request of a 14-year-old girl hospitalized with cystic fibrosis.

* Latin America: Chinese loans to Latin America reportedly jumped by 71% to $22 billion last year and surpassed the money lent by the by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank combined.

* Mexico: A court settlement could allow thousands of Mexicans who were allegedly deceived into voluntarily exiting the U.S. to return and appeal their respective cases.

Video Source – YouTube user euronews

Online Sources – Houston Chronicle; GlobalPost; The Latin Americanist; CBS News; BBC News

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Daily Headlines: February 26, 2015

* Venezuela: Political tensions have intensified following the February 19th detention of Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma and the shooting death of a 14-year-old boy on Tuesday.

* Guatemala: Ex-Guatemalan president Alfonso Portillo could soon return to his homeland after he was released from a U.S. prison where he served less than a year on bribery charges.

* U.S.: A new study found that Latinos are expected to account for more than 40% of job growth in the next five years mainly due to an increase in the number of working age Latinos to offset retiring “baby boomers.”

* Haiti: Approximately 10,000 protesters in Port-au-Prince called on better treatment and more respect of Haitians living in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

Video Source – YouTube user ODN (“A policeman has shot dead a teenage boy during an anti-government protest in Venezuela.”)

Online Sources – Fox News Latino; ABC News; The Globe and Mail; Reuters

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Daily Headlines: February 25, 2015

* Latin America: Remittances to Latin America reportedly jumped by 4% to $62.3 billion last year with Mexico and several Central American states seeing the most gains.

* Ecuador: President Rafael Correa called on OPEC countries to engage in an emergency meeting due to the low prices of oil.

* Colombia: Scientists have identified a new volcano in central Colombia though there are said to be no signs that it will soon erupt.

* U.S.: A new poll found that Latinos largely share similar views to non-Latinos on most foreign policy issues with the exception of immigration and climate change.

Video Source – YouTube via teleSUR English

Online Sources – Reuters; Wired; Fox News Latino; NBC News

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Daily Headlines: February 24, 2015

* Brazil: Indonesia’s president denied granting clemency to eleven foreigners facing the death penalty for drug smuggling including a Brazilian national.

* U.S.: A senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claimed that the recent outbreak of measles in the U.S. has caused the virus to be “exported” to Mexico.

* Panama: The former president of Panama's top court, Alejandro Moncada, was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to corruption charges.

* Mexico: The Mexican government sent a note of protest to the Vatican after Pope Francs warned against the “Mexicanization” of the drug trade in Argentina.

Video Source – YouTube user CCTV America (“Indonesia has recalled its ambassador to Brazil, adding to a diplomatic row over executions. A Brazilian drug smuggler was put to death last month.”)

Online Sources – Reuters; The Guardian; The New York Times; NBC News

Monday, February 23, 2015

Daily Headlines: February 23, 2015

* Cuba: The 270 members of the Ladies in White could soon select their new leader due to infighting within the Cuban protest group.

* South America: Diplomatic tensions have grown between Peru and Chile over a spying scandal.

* Colombia: The U.S. gave a strong indication of support to the Colombian peace process by naming veteran Latin America diplomat Bernie Aronson as special envoy to talks between officials and the FARC.
* Mexico: Authorities detained fifty-four migrants from Central America, Cuba and Sri Lanka who were traveling “in bad conditions and had not consumed food or water for more than 24 hours.”

Video Source – YouTube via Reuters (“Cuba's Ladies in White, a group made up of wives and mothers of jailed dissidents,” in a protest march last December.)

Online Sources – Zee News; Reuters; ABC News; Fox News Latino

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Nusetro Cine: Orfeu e Eurydice

Tonight we will find out if Argentine anthology comedy “Wild Tales” can upset Polish Holocaust-era drama “Ida” and Russian satire “Leviathan” to capture the Oscar for top foreign film. Twice before has a Latin American movie won the Academy Award in that category and both came from Argentina including most recently “The Secret in Their Eyes”. Unofficially, however, one could make the case that the first ever best foreign film Oscar for a Latin American movie was given over fifty years ago.

Up to that time, 1959’s “Black Orpheus” wasn’t the first movie based on the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice but it was a unique adaptation from a play from Brazilian writer Vinícius de Moraes. Set in the in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval the film follows trolley conductor Orfeu who falls in love with a newcomer to the city, Eurydice. Their relationship becomes stronger despite Orfeu’s engagement to Mira and Eurydice constantly trying to run away from Death dressed in a stylized skeleton costume. Much like in Greek mythology, Death catches up to Eurydice and, thus, Orfeu travels to the underworld in order to get her back.

 “Black Orpheus” is famed for its soundtrack that was composed by two little-known artists at the time: Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá. Their work helped create greater worldwide attention to bossa nova music through several songs in the film like "Manhã de Carnaval" and "A Felicidade".

Though “Black Orpheus” was based on de Moraes’ play, co-produced by Brazil’s Tupan Filmes, shot in Rio with mostly Brazilian actors and spoken in Portuguese, the French government submitted the film as its official entry to the Academy Awards. Since only one film can be nominated per country in the best foreign film category, France was recognized as the recipient of the Oscar. (The movie won the 1961 BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Language and was Brazil credited together with fellow co-producers France and Italy).

Film critics then and now have mostly looked favorably upon “Black Orpheus” though its depiction of dark-skinned, happy-go-lucky Brazilians did not sit well with some viewers. Then-university student Barack Obama acknowledged that the movie was his mother’s favorite film yet he found it to be exploitative. Musician Caetano Veloso remembers the less than favorable reaction in Brazil:

Friday, February 20, 2015

Daily Headlines: February 20, 2015

* Cuba: A new Gallup poll found that roughly three out of five Americans want the U.S. to normalize relations with Cuba and also end the decades-long trade embargo against the island.

* Mexico: The Mexican economy grew at its fastest rate in two years according to new data revealed by the country’s the national statistics institute.

* Dominican Republic: Convicted Dominican drug trafficker Quirino Ernesto Paulino claimed that he donated about $4.6 million in cash to ex-president Leonel Fernandez.

* Chile: A Chilean judge dismissed the case against a Catholic priest who had facilitated the illegal adoptions of at least two babies during the Pinochet military regime.

Video Source – YouTube via Council on Foreign Relations

Online Sources – Reuters; Gallup; The Guardian; Bloomberg

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Daily Headlines: February 19, 2015

* Argentina: Hundreds of thousands of Argentines participated in a “March of Silence” demanding justice in the investigation into the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman last month.

* Uruguay: Despite backing the resettlement of six former Guantanamo detainees in Uruguay, President Jose Mujica was critical of their alleged lack of work ethic.

* U.S.: The February 10th shooting death of an unarmed undocumented migrant by police in Pasco, Washington has reportedly “galvanized” the small city’s Latino community.

* Bolivia: The Bolivian government provided details of its planned nuclear energy program and that includes “employing gamma irradiation with Cobalt-60 to improve seed quality and decrease the rate at which food spoils.”

Video Source – YouTube user BBC News

Online Sources – The Latin Americanist; ABC News; Fox News Latino; Reuters; The Huffington Post

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Daily Headlines: February 18, 2015

* Central America: Officials from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador expressed their disappointment with a U.S. judge’s order this week to temporarily suspend planned relief for millions of undocumented migrants.

* Cuba: The State Department confirmed that the second round of diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Cuba will take place on February 27th in Washington, D.C.

* Mexico: Pemex will not ship finished gasoline or diesel through the company’s vast network of pipelines in order to prevent fuel from being stolen.

* Argentina: France’s top appeals court blocked Argentina’s extradition request for a former police officer accused of torture, kidnappings and murder during the “Dirty War” era.

Video Source – YouTube user Bloomberg Business

Online Sources – World Bulletin; RFI; CBC News; Fox News Latino

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Daily Headlines: February 17, 2015

* Latin America: Victims of child abuse from several countries in the Americas including Argentina, Mexico and Peru and urged Pope Francis to take stronger actions against clergy suspected of abuse.

* Argentina: President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner vowed that she will “endure” despite the pressure against her stemming from the death of special prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

* Venezuela: Organization of American States chief Jose Miguel Insulza suggested liberating imprisoned opposition activists Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado in order to help overcome Venezuela’s political crisis.

* Haiti: At least twenty people have died after a freak electrocution accident during Carnival celebrations in Port-au-Prince.

Video Source – YouTube user euronews (Video uploaded in 2013).

Online Sources – USA TODAY; The Latin Americanist; MercoPress GlobalPost; Fox News Latino

Monday, February 16, 2015

Daily Headlines: February 15, 2014

* Cuba: Nearly three out of four Latinos back the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba while a 43% plurality are opposed to the trade embargo according to a new poll.

* Bolivia: President Evo Morales reaffirmed Bolivia's claim to access to the sea that was lost to Chile nearly 150 years ago.

* Nicaragua: "We are all dying from it, it’s a total epidemic," said one of the thousands of sugarcane harvesters diagnosed with the same chronic kidney disease that has claimed at least 20,000 lives in Nicaragua over the past two decades.

* Latin America: Moscow: Russian defense officials claimed that there are no plans to establish military bases in Latin America but Moscow is considering potentially creating "resupply and technical support points" in parts of the region.

Online Sources -South Florida Sun-Sentinel; The Guardian; teleSUR English; Zee News

Friday, February 13, 2015

Daily Headlines: February 13, 2015

* Uruguay: Uruguayan President-elect Tabare Vazquez said that he was unsure if he will accept a second group of Syrian refugees after his inauguration on March 1st.  

* Cuba: A bipartisan group of six senators introduced a bill aimed at ending the decades-long U.S. trade embargo against Cuba despite opposition from Cuban-American legislators.

* Colombia: The Colombian government welcomed the FARC’s vow to halt the recruitment of minors but called on the rebels to free all of their child soldiers.

* Mexico: Mexican authorities will review the tax filings of nationals who allegedly dodged paying taxes by opening bank accounts in the Swiss division of HSBC.

Video Source – YouTube user AFP (“Thirteen Syrian refugees attended school for the first time (last October) in Montevideo, after arriving in Uruguay with their families less than two weeks ago”).

Online Sources – GlobalPost; USA TODAY; The West Australian; Reuters

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Daily Headlines: February 12, 2015

* Latin America: A new study concluded that the strong emphasis on immigration controls in Mexico and the U.S. have hurt thousands of Central American child migrants.

* U.S.: The Latino population may be growing but the rate of Latino doctors have fallen according to a recent report.

* Panama: Construction was halted on a nearly completed hydroelectric power plant that was strongly opposed by local indigenous communities.

* Colombia: The ELN guerillas freed an unnamed Dutch hostage who was kidnapped last month.

Video Source – YouTube user teleSUR English (“Specialists believe that the flow of tens of thousands of minors migrating to the United States will not decrease in 2015. An estimated 60,000 Central American children illegally entered the United States in 2014.”)

Online Sources – Fox News Latino; NBC News; Latin American Herald Tribune; Reuters

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Daily Headlines: February 11, 2015 (Updated)

* Haiti: Carnival celebrations are still expected to take place next week in Port-au-Prince despite heightened political and economic tensions.

* Brazil: In one of the latest problems to hit scandal-plagued Petrobras, technical issues have hurt development of the offshore Libra oil field.

Update: More bad news for Petrbras.
* Venezuela: Venezuelan bonds fell in early trading today after the government introduced a new foreign exchange system.

* Chile: Possibly coming soon to a theater near you – a new movie from acclaimed Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Video Source – YouTube user Associated Press (“Burning barricades of tires and debris in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Monday signaled the start of a two-day strike to protest against the high price of fuel.”)

Online Sources including Update– Bloomberg; Haitian Times; The A.V. Club; Reuters; BBC News

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Daily Headlines: February 10, 2015

* Latin America: A former bodyguard to the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, an Ecuadoran business magnate and Uruguayan soccer player Diego Forlan are among the thousands of people accused of evading taxes by hiding money in Swiss bank accounts.

* Mexico: Mexico’s Attorney General’s office lashed out at Argentine forensics investigators for expressing doubts at the investigation into the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students.

* Cuba: Fourteen artists including four recipients of the prestigious Turner Prize signed a letter criticizing the repeated detention and harassment of Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera.

* Puerto Rico: The government of Puerto Rico is expected to appeal a recent federal court ruling voiding a debt restructuring law.

Video Source – YouTube via euronews (“HSBC helped rich clients dodge tax, according to a report released by a group of investigative journalists”.)

Online Sources – Reuters; Buenos Aires Herald; The Guardian